The average child asks approximately 300 questions a day.

“Why do I have a shadow?”

“When will the sun be out?”

“How will we get there?”

“Where is that airplane going?”

The constant bombardment of questions and chatter can be exhausting and exasperating for parents, but when we put ourselves in our children’s shoes, we realize they’re trying to make sense of what can be a very confusing world.

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Studies show that when children encounter inconsistency or a gap in knowledge, asking questions gives them the information they need at the appropriate opportunity for them to process it. As exasperating as 105,120 questions a year can be, they play a crucial role in encouraging curiosity and cognitive development.

Research has also shown that an explanatory response to a child’s question is equally important in cognitive development as the inquiry itself. Researcher Brandy Frazier at University of Michigan led a study in which 42 preschoolers were presented with thought-provoking scenarios. 30 percent of those children nodded or agreed when answered with a reasonable explanation compared to 13 percent when answered with a vague or non-explanatory response. Those who did not receive an adequate explanation often asked their original question again.

As tempting as it may be to discourage relentless inquiries, everyone will benefit when we encourage curiosity.

What do we do when we simply can’t answer one more question about chocolate milk udders and whether or not snails have ears? I suppose we could have our kids ask Google, but that doesn’t seem appropriate. Thankfully there are some amazing resources available to promote some of that brain-building curiosity.

Five ways to encourage your curiosity seeker through play

Science toys

Many schools are incorporating a STEM curriculum to build science, math, and problem-solving skills. Consider incorporating some toys that encourage exploration, experimentation, and concentration into playtime to keep those wheels turning. Here are some examples:

  • Kid’s microscope
  • Magnet blocks
  • Telescope
  • Anatomy puzzles and dolls

Nature

Fortunately, nature has a fantastic way of answering much of what perplexes us. With a little guidance, the great outdoors is one of the most valuable resources we have to keep our children learning and exploring. Here are some things to do outside with your kids:

  • Set up a butterfly kit
  • Use a magnifying glass to study natural objects
  • Observe bugs and birds
  • Draw a picture or look at photos of the same tree in different seasons

Technology

Busy Water app is a learning game that provides children with the opportunity to plan waterway structures, which builds critical-thinking skills and instills beginning physics concepts.

Let’s Start Coding kit has kids follow the steps to learn beginning coding skills. It will keep curious kids engaged and encourage problem-solving, analytical thinking, and perseverance.

Open-ended language

The language we use can have a powerful influence on whether or not children continue exploring something that interests them. The more encouraging and open-ended we can be when we’re trying to help them understand a concept, the more confident they will be in their efforts to figure things out. Here are some encouraging phrases to use with your child:

  • I wonder…
  • I noticed…
  • What do you think?
  • How did you come to that conclusion?

Praise for problem-solving

We often praise and recognize our children for the outcomes of their endeavors. If we positively reinforce the process of arriving at answers, they’ll be more encouraged to keep thinking things through. Instead of “You finished the puzzle!” try “I noticed you had trouble with one piece and then figured it out. You really solved that problem!”

Now you’re prepared and ready for the next time your only answer is “That’s a good question.” The world is changing quickly. Curiosity will serve our children well. Let’s help them maintain it.